Dr. Jenny Ruiz, a 2008 program participant at Yale University. She graduated from Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science with a degree in biomedical engineering and her medical degree from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is currently a first year fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

What led to your interest in a health profession?

I first became interested in the medical field as a teenager when I accompanied by grandfather to his post kidney transplant appointments. My grandfather was an immigrant from rural Mexico; he had a limited education and struggled with the English language. During his medical appointments, I witnessed cultural and communication barriers that led to mistrust and misunderstandings. I envisioned finding solutions to these problems as a future physician.

What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?

As a first generation/low-income college student I had unique obstacles that the typical pre-med did not have. The biggest one was financial. Since I knew this was going to be an obstacle even before applying to college, I did my research and applied to as many scholarships that I was eligible. In school, I made a budget and stuck to it. The second biggest challenge was navigating college as a first-generation student. This is where programs like SHPEP make a difference. It was in this program where I first met medical students and doctors who looked like me and believed in my dreams. This program gave me a concrete plan on what I needed to do to be a successful pre-med. As a first-gen student it was also very important to utilize the resources of my school, whether it was free tutoring, advising offices or leadership programs.

If you had the opportunity to talk to a health profession student, what would you tell him/her?

Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t reach your dreams. The pre-med track is not easy but if this is truly what you want, you can do it! Seek out opportunities, seek out mentors, be persistent!

Read more about Dr. Ruiz in the NewYork-Presbyterian Health Matters.

Updated: December 2021